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Call for Papers: Special Issue on Visual Governance in Migration

Co-editors Anna Triandafyllidou, Chair, CERC Migration, and Alice Massari, Marie Curie Global Fellow, invite proposals to participate in a special issue proposal on visual governance in migration to be submitted to the Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies (external link) 

In today’s public discourse, images have assumed a pivotal role, a significance that has only grown with the increasing prominence of social media platforms. Images possess a unique ability to transcend language barriers, swiftly convey complex ideas and emotions, encapsulate narratives, and elicit strong emotional responses, rendering information more accessible and engaging. In today's fast-paced world of social media, where concise, visually appealing content reigns supreme, both real and fake images have become the primary currency of online communication. As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Images have become not just common but often indispensable elements of communication on virtually every topic. Particularly, subjects of global significance have been widely represented through a diverse array of images, whether it's overcrowded migrant boats, starving polar bears on melting glaciers, or infographics displaying the latest COVID-19 mortality rates, all of which have gone viral.

As images continue to play an increasingly vital role in communication and political discourse, various strands of scholarly research from diverse perspectives have contemplated the intersection of images and international politics, since authors have started to reflect on the role that media had in influencing foreign policy decision-making, the so-called CNN effect (Strobel, 1996; Robinson, 1999; Livingston, 2011). In the early 2000s, with a seminal intervention, Bleiker called for increased attention to the role that images were playing in international Relations, given their crucial role in offering specific representations of socio-political events. Since then, the significance of visual representation in global affairs has received some attention from scholars who have looked at the role played in world politics by iconic images (Hansen, 2015), and the emotions elicited by particular photographs (Adler-Nissen et al., 2020).

With the increased prominence that the topic of migration has acquired over the last two decades, a growing of scholarship has started focusing on the study of how specific visual representations of displacement contributed to shaping the public understanding of migration dynamics. Among others, studies have investigated the media’s role in shaping the “migration crisis” narrative (Chouliaraki & Stolic, 2017), the military-humanitarian visual politics of operations in the Mediterranean Sea (Musarò, 2017), challenged the convergence of humanitarian and policing visual framing (Franko, 2021). However, despite extremely important contributions, the role of images in the broader context of governance dynamics, especially in the realm of migration governance, remains largely under-theorized. This special issue will seek to address this gap by looking at the role of images in migration governance by addressing two main sets of questions. The first is more analytical in nature and asks what the role of visual communication in governance is today. The question that arises is whether and how such instant connectivity shapes the governance landscape.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Social media and Global Connectivity: the impact of social media on the rapid dissemination of images related to migration crises, and how this connectivity shapes global perceptions and responses.
  • Technological Advancements in Visual Communication: role of advanced digital technologies, such as drone photography, real-time data sharing, and instant audio-visual information, in influencing governance dynamics.
  • Role of Non-Traditional Actors: role of non-traditional actors, including amateur journalists, social media influencers, and civil society organizations, in shaping narratives and responses to migration through visual content.
  • Transnational Public Sphere: features and implications of a transnational audience and public sphere in the context of migration governance, challenging traditional notions of a common language for public discourse.
  • Governance Frameworks and Migration Discourse: new analytical frameworks for governance, particularly in migration and asylum governance, in response to the changing landscape of image-driven communication.
  • Alternative Narratives and Perspectives: Investigation of how affordable digital technologies empower marginalized actors, such as migrants, asylum seekers, and displaced persons, to challenge dominant narratives and present alternative perspectives through visual representations.
  • Mobilization and Advocacy through Images: role of visual content in mobilizing support for migrants' rights and its potential to counteract stereotypes and xenophobia in the public and political spheres.
  • Ethics of Image Use in Migration Governance: ethical considerations surrounding the use of images in migration governance, including issues of representation, exploitation, and the potential for misinformation.
  • Policy Implications: impact of visual representations on policy-making processes related to migration and asylum, including the potential for positive change or reinforcement of existing biases and stereotypes.

Submissions for papers should include an abstract (300-400 words indicating main research questions, methods and expected results) and a short biographical note (150 words) about the author including her/his/their current position.

Submissions should be emailed to by 31 March 2024.

Accepted participants will be notified 2 weeks after submission.

For further questions please mail:

Horizon 2020 European Union Funding for Research & Innovation logo

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 101024772.